Cross-training multiple departments within a dealership to troubleshoot simple precision farming problems for customers provides opportunities for sales, parts and even service teams to invest in the objectives and outcomes of the precision part of the business. 

During the 2020 Precision Farming Dealer Summit in St. Louis, in January, a panel of precision executives, managing different sized organizations with diverse ag tech objectives, discussed what it takes to manage a precision business and how they lead their employees to success. The panel included:

Kevin Hemmelgarn, Store Manager, Apple Farm Service, Botkins, Ohio
Tom Rosztoczy, President/CEO, Stotz Equipment, Avondale, Ariz. 
Rob Schmidt, Chief Operating Officer, TruAcre Technology, Muscatine, Iowa

Moderated by George Russell, co-founder of the Machinery Advisers Consortium, the discussion covered putting employees on a path to success, positioning a precision business for growth and effective management strategies to increase productivity.


George Russell: How do you organize training the sales or parts staff to do basic troubleshooting?

Kevin Hemmelgarn: I’ve actually been working with a contact at New Holland, so she’s getting me course lists put together to structure within the CNH training. Internally, the way we have it structured would be the precision technician goes through the field start on combine, a planting tractor and a baling tractor.

Tom Rosztoczy: I think of training as two different kinds. One training would be the technical training you need to be competent at your job. That’s the kind of training you’re using daily, so if we’ve taught you, you’re going to see it regularly and so you’re going to retain it. You’ve learned something really cool and you don’t see it again for a year, it doesn’t matter how cool it was you’re not going to remember it. I think the other part of training is having people have enough of an understanding from our perspective, what the dealership is doing. So, if I work the parts counter, I’m not going to be talking about data analytics on a daily basis, but I should be aware of what the dealership is doing so if a customer comes in, I can talk at least at a high level about that. I think that’s a different kind of training. 

Rob Schmidt: I think training becomes valuable when it’s repeatable. We’ve created a training manual to allow us to go through and track, adding the dates from when they start and when they should be accomplishing all these things. We’re putting it together with it some competency criteria. I’d like to be able to have more hands-on training for doing planter inspections, working on a planter to doing an install. We’re trying to build that right now to be able evaluate that they were able to successfully do this. Maybe this is the stuff they have to work on.

We’ve identified if we want them to go do an Ag Leader class or those things. Even that can be difficult because those aren’t offered all the time. Maybe that’s only offered in October or November, but I hired somebody in December, now they can’t get to it for a year, that makes it very complicated. So, we’re trying to find those classes that are more repeatable. That’s a big thing we found. We used to kick people to the field really quickly and let them learn on the fly. We’ve quit doing that. With the new process, we’re going to keep them in training and always with another technician for 6 months before I put them out alone. Hopefully they can get more repetition, ask more questions.

They aren’t just thrown to the wolves. I’ve found, the people who are really good technicians, they aren’t really the type of people who like to be thrown out into a world where they don’t know what they’re doing yet. That’s not where they perform well. That’s not how they’re wired. And that’s why they’re really good at what they do because they need to know. Maybe it needs to be a year, maybe it only needs to be 3 months, but we’re trying 6 months right now before we kick them out to the wolves.